In what will rank as one of the all-time presidential P.R. disasters, we're now well over half way through what the White House called "the summer of recovery." And what a recovery it's been.
Earlier this month, first-time claims for unemployment hit a nine-month high. The unemployment rate remains at 9.5% and 18.4% of workers are out of a job, can only get part-time work, or have given up looking for a job altogether. Sales of existing homes dropped 27% from June to July, hitting the lowest point since data were first collected in 1999. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell to 50.4 in July, continuing a slide that started in February. And the stock market is down 11% from its peak in April.
All of this has helped shatter public confidence in the president. In early May, Mr. Obama's approval on the economy in the YouGov/Polimetrix poll was 42%. By mid-August, it was 35%—a frightening number for Democrats less than 70 days from a midterm election. According to this week's Reuters poll, 72% are "very" worried about jobs and 67% "very concerned" about government spending.
Mr. Obama's credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don't believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year's massive stimulus package had "worked." Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery's pace "continues to increase, not decrease" as stimulus spending was "moving into its highest gear."
It's slightly surreal. "Who are you going to believe," as Groucho Marx once said, "me or your own eyes?"
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